Loss of appetite – possible causes, remedies

All Woman
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“I'M not hungry,” is a commonly used phrase, and it's a good thing to say on many occasions especially if you are trying to lose weight or stick to a diet. But if you find yourself saying “I'm not hungry” too frequently, especially when being offered foods that you usually enjoy, it can indicate a more serious issue.

Medical internist Dr Samantha Nicholson-Spence says loss of appetite, known medically as anorexia, usually happens in response to changes in an individual's physical or emotional well-being.

“Food aversions affect most people at some point in their lives and it usually resolves on its own. But if this poor appetite is not remedied quickly it can lead to rapid weight loss and malnutrition, which can cause serious health issues,” she tells All Woman.

She points to some of the frequent causes of a loss of appetite.

“Some viruses and upper respiratory tract infections such as the common cold often cause a loss of appetite, but your appetite usually returns once you get better,” she explains. She notes that sinusitis and other illnesses that might limit the sense of smell is likely to cause a loss of appetite because the patient won't be very interested in food that they cannot smell, as it will taste bland.

“Acid reflux, which can cause a constant sour taste in the mouth, because acids are coming back up from the stomach, can also cause someone to lose their appetite,” she says. She adds that dyspepsia, which causes bloating and discomfort, can also cause you to feel full when you are not, causing you to eat less food than your body needs. “Also, some medications list loss of appetite as a side effect, and normalcy returns once you stop taking those medications.”

But some conditions can cause you to lose your appetite for a longer time or even permanently, she points out.

“Thyroid problems and HIV may cause anorexia, as can diseases of major organs such as heart failure, kidney failure or liver disease,” the doctor says. “But anorexia is often caused by emotional triggers, too.”

The eating disorder anorexia nervosa, which is often just referred to as anorexia, she says, is a well-known culprit.

“This is an emotional disorder that causes a person to compulsively refuse food. This is usually accompanied by a fear of gaining weight or other psychological problems, so even thought they may want to eat food they are so terrified of gaining weight that they choose not to,” she explains. “But stress, grief, depression and anxiety can also cause a person's appetite to decrease, just as they may cause some persons' appetites to increase.”

Dr Nicholson-Spence says that in order to effectively solve a sudden food aversion and avoid the ill effects of poor nutrition, one must first figure out what is causing it. She recommends that you speak with a counsellor if you think that your loss of appetite is emotionally triggered, or your physician if you have other symptoms along with the loss of appetite.

In the meantime, she recommends that you maximise the nutritional value of the meals that you are able to consume.

“Hearty soups and protein-rich drinks are good options for people with small appetites because they don't require a lot of effort and are digested quickly,” she advises. “If you cannot have full meals, snacking on foods rich in protein and calories can help to stave off rapid weight loss and fatigue.”

She names eggs, avocados, fresh fruits, canned fish, raw nuts and mashed potatoes as super foods to combat anorexia which require little preparation and effort.

She warns, however, that there are some red flags that must not be ignored when suffering from a loss of appetite, as they indicate that you need immediate medical attention.

“If you have sudden, rapid weight loss, have a fever or chills, are dizzy when you stand up, or you are extremely tired all the time, then you need to speak with a medical professional,” she advises.

She also prompts people to see their doctors if loss of appetite is going on for a long time for no apparent reason, as some more serious conditions, such as some cancers, often only carry subtle symptoms such as these in the early stages.

She highlighted that while it is good to say no to the foods that we should not be eating, we must remember that it is just as important to say yes to the foods that we should be eating to sustain our bodies.

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